An Interview with Ana Maria (Nita) Araujo Freire

By Kirylo, James D. | Childhood Education, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

An Interview with Ana Maria (Nita) Araujo Freire


Kirylo, James D., Childhood Education


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"Paulo possessed the presence of a man of strength."--Ana Maria Araujo Freire

Ana Maria (Nita) Araujo Freire is the widow of Paulo Freire (1921-1997), educator, philosopher, political activist, and the "inaugural protagonist of what has come to be known through education and humanities as 'critical pedagogy'" (McLaren, 2000). Nita, the name affectionately used by Paulo, was born in Recife, Brazil, on November 13, 1933. The daughter of educators, Nita is an intellectual in her own right, with a Ph.D. from the Pontificia Universidade Catolica de Sao Paulo (PUC/ SP). She has lectured in many parts of the world, including Europe, Latin America, and the United States. In addition to writing books, book chapters/introductions/ prefaces, and articles, she also collaborated with Paulo, writing informative, detailed endnotes for his books Letters to Cristina (1996) and Pedagogy of Hope (1994). Regarding Nita's collaboration, Paulo Freire (1994) states, Her important notes to this book [Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed] and other books that I have written since gave readers an important insight into the historical conditions that made me the thinker, the writer I am today. This is fantastic! Nita is without a doubt one of the few people who truly and completely understand my work. It is almost scary. Sometimes I think she understands my ideas better than I do. (pp. 4-5)

Nita also has been extraordinarily dedicated in having much of Paulo's other writings published posthumously, such as Daring to Dream: Toward a Pedagogy of the Unfinished (2007), Pedagogy of Indignation (2004), and Pedagogy of the Heart (1997). She also wrote the book Chronicles of Love: My Life With Paulo Freire (2001), and has written what appears, to date, to be the most comprehensive biography of Paulo, Paulo Freire: Uma Historia de Vida (2006) (Paulo Freire: A History of Life), which won second place in Premio Jabuti-2007, the most important literary award in Brazil, under the category "Best Biography." The book has yet to be translated into English, although there are plans to do so.

Interview Setting

My wife, Anette, and I traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to conduct this interview. We were greeted by Nita at her apartment with a warm embrace. While we came as strangers, six hours later we left as friends; and we picked up where we left off a few months later in New York City. In New York, we enjoyed a casual afternoon stroll, traversing though the Union Square area as Nita shared wonderful nuggets of information about her life with Paulo, while pointing out areas where they used to walk and dine during the times they visited the city together. After the interview tapes were transcribed, translated, and logically organized, the transcriptions were sent back to Nita so that, if necessary, she could make any changes or modifications. The following is an abridged version of the interview.

Who are your greatest influences?

My father and my mother had a great influence on me, especially regarding my moral values and my ethics. After I married Paulo, he had tremendous influence on me, particularly impacting the way I understand and see the world. He was a person who contributed to my critical thinking, and also my desire to be one who continued to study. Like many intellectuals during my era in Brazil, I was influenced by Marxism, personalism, and the existentialists from France and Germany. Paulo also was influenced by the same philosophers and educators that influenced me. Based on those influences, Paulo created a new comprehensive explanation and understanding of the world, particularly about education.

I know your story with Paulo is filled with ironic twists of fate. How did it come to be that you and he ended up falling in love and getting married?

Paulo and I knew each other for many years, actually since I was 3 years old and he, at the time, was 16. …

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